Never felt like a noob as much as I did today. My first trip to SoxFest and boy, I certainly picked up some tips on what to do in the future. If you have never gone, I sort of recommend it. If you enjoy attending card shows where you can shop for memorabilia, cards, and merchandise with the hope at the end getting an autograph from a former athlete, then SoxFest is for you.
If you are hoping to find a setting where you can meet your favorite White Sox players and hope to chat with them, I would curb your enthusiasm. Unless 15 seconds qualifies as a significant chat for you as that's pretty much all of the face time you get while you are herded like sheep (or cow - whichever you prefer) and stand in amusement park lines to grab some ink on a ball or bat.
If you are one where you would like to sit in a room, and have the opportunity to ask players, coaches, and the General Manager questions about the team and the season, well hot damn the Q & A session is worth the price of admission. For those not lucky to attend this year, I have recorded the entire session. I do have to warn you that you can hear some whispering in the background and Robin is very hard to hear (no mic skills. Someone should work with him on this.).
Want to hear the recording yourself? Here is the link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/v6etyr03orox3wo/Voice%20001.m4a
For those that do not want to listen to the 45 minutes of audio, here are the questions/comments and key quotes from Ventura and Hahn.
Fan question: I got a question that might not set well...why is AJ still not our catcher? (VERY LARGE APPLAUSE)
Rick Hahn: AJ was absolutely fantastic for us. I think Hawk was one of his biggest supporters when we first signed him. Anyone told you that when we signed AJ when he was non-tendered by San Francisco he would be with us for 8 seasons and have that kind of run of success, we all would have been a bit surprised. He was fantastic for us. Durable. Championship caliber catcher obviously we wear these rings (World Series Ring) large part due to his efforts.
Now...we still would have lost far too many games even if we had AJ last year. That wasn't going to change.
Again, he was fantastic for us. I understand...I share...strongly more than you the importance he was to this organization. But I want to find a long term answers.
Fan question/comment: Next guy - makes comment about it being so discouraging to watch Adam Dunn bat. Rambles on about watching a fullback getting tackled at the line of scrimmage is the same as watching Adam Dunn. Had no question]
Hahn: On Adam, couple of things. I understand the frustrations and I'm sure Adam feels it more than of the fans out there.
For three months last year: June, July and August he was our most dangerous hitter. Part of what he is going to bring is going to take a bit of pressure off Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu, who are a part of this long term and what we need for future success. He is going to be the left handed bat that breaks up those righties, carry some of the load, and has been in those wars before. He's going to be a benefit for those young guys.
Fan Question: 1) What's your plan for left field?
2) What's your plan for the DH?
3) What's your plan for Closer?
Robin Ventura: Outfield: Again where we sit in January doesn't always end up in Spring Training. So right now, it is a crowded outfield. There is some flexibility. Injuries do come up and you are going to need guys to fill those spots.
1B/DH: Given that Paulie came back, he is going to play. That's part of him coming back to the team. Mentor type knowing its his last year. For Paulie its not always easy, especially the past couple of years, it takes a lot more energy to prepare yourself and play.
The guy has his mind wrapped around the role and he's excited by it. I did it myself and we've had quite a few conversations about it. Its a fun role knowing if you go into it.
Closer: I don't think its a problem to have competition in that role. We have a few spots where there is going to be some competition. We are going to put guys in spots and move them around.
Hahn: Keep in mind this is a process we are trying to do here. There is going to be points especially in January and the start of Spring Training where the projected daily roster doesn't look it fits certainly right.
But most importantly, we are trying to get this right for an extended period of time. Jose Abreu is part of that. We are not going to pass on a guy like or (Adam) Eaton who can help us win for a long time. Just because it creates weird roster match up in Left Field platoon, catching platoon, and DH platoon. Hopefully we are going to be able to iron some of that stuff out in the upcoming weeks.
Fan Question: I'm wearing a Cooper shirt so I have to ask a pitching question. I'm most concerned with Starting Pitching, right now who do you see as the real candidates to fill the last two spots?
Fan Question: For Ventura - Robin this club lost 99 games last year. How difficult will it be for you to gain credibility in the clubhouse?
Ventura: For starting the season and Spring Training I don't think its going to be difficult at all. Its a new season and I've been a part of seasons that were good and I've been a part of seasons that were bad.
If guys want to come and think about last year, they can think about last year. From the middle of the year on, we were gradually getting ourselves to think about 2014. From the end of the year and in the off-season we have different people here so we are going into 2014 and think about how we are going to play in 2014.
Fan Question: With the fielding problems and the base-running problems, do you guys ever think about picking up (wait for it) OMAR VIZQUEL?
Ventura: [Avoids the question] We are going to be focusing on [base running and fielding], as well as anything else. So it may look like a boot camp for the first couple of weeks during Spring Training.
Fan Question: With the upcoming draft, we have the 3rd overall pick. How are you going to scout differently? In Kenny's last 10 years only 3 players saw time in the big's. How will you draft differently so the number 3 pick doesn't end up being another guy in the system?
Hahn: 2008-2011 in the last year of the collective bargaining agreement we were 30th in amateur and draft spending.
However, we were 2nd in baseball during that span in Wins Above Replacement level for the players we drafted... We had an under funded operation performing extremely well despite being under funded. Starting in 2012 and 2013 we spent the maximum of what we were allowed in the amateur draft.
We now have over $15 million dollars to spend on the amateur draft and internationally. Given how strongly [Scouting] department has performed with limited funds, and how strongly I feel our past couple of drafts have been, I feel pretty good about that.
At the 3rd pick we are going to get a good player there. But we also need to make a decision, you know, you get a big bonus spot at that third pick. Are you better off spending that entire bonus spot on that one guy? Or do you think you can shave off little and spend it on another guy?
Fan Question: We know that there are some changes coming up, allowing managers to challenge during the game. I was wondering how you feel about that? How do you like that rule? And if Hawk is going to be on the phone to you on bad plays?
Ventura: [In regards to Hawk] That is a really good idea.
We have the technology to do it. If you are in the dugout, I'm sure you guys do the same thing, if you feel a call is missed, every play is important: every run, every out, so to get it right is important. And that's the direction Major League Baseball is going and I feel good about us doing that. When you get it right, everyone feels a lot better and you can sleep at night.
Fan Question: This question is for Hahn, when are we going to get Jarrod Parker as our #2 starter? (This fan is Jarrod Parker's Uncle. Pretty cool)
I watched a lot of games (A's) this year and they had 4 catchers they used during the season. Are any of those guys available and do they fit into our team?
Hahn: Short answer is no. We've got a good relationship with Billy (Beane) and we have gone back and forth on ideas, probably too much. Again from our perspective we need to improve the catcher position. We cannot afford to have the same performance as we did last year.
From my perspective, only one catcher has changed teams that would have been a longer term solution that would fit in with what we are trying to do. And that was a guy who got $85 million by signing with the Yankees.
Fan Question: Robin, I loved you as a player and congrats on the extension. As a fan I'm still trying to figure out your demeanor compared to Ozzie. I thought you were the perfect manager in 2012 - last year as the wheels came off quite frankly I was thinking does Robin have a pulse? Now we come into 2014, help me understand...
Ventura [cuts off question] I have a pulse, I swear.
Fan Question: Well Ozzie has a ring. And I'm trying to figure out if you are the right guy for this team?
Hahn: You need to understand, as a fan you only get to see a percentage of what's going on. You don't see what's happening behind closed doors. You don't see what's happening in the clubhouse. You don't see what's happening in the office one on one with a player, or some instances two on one with a player.
That's how we prefer it. Yeah, its a little more satisfying when you see a guy that is seething. You know that he's feeling that anger that you feel. And it sort of helps you vent a little because you know he's chewing someone's rear end out. But just because we don't air out our dirty laundry publicly, or throw players under the bus publicly, doesn't mean that message is being communicated in a very effective manner behind closed doors. Which quite frankly, while its not very satisfying, is how we prefer it.
Fan question/comment: What is the collective thinking on February 20th when the team reports to Spring Training? And finally the Red Sox lost 93 games in 2012, stunk up the AL East and was a disaster. The 2013 White Sox lost 99 games, finished dead last in the AL Central and it was a disaster. In 2013 the Red Sox won the World Series. In 2014, Why. Not. Us. (LOUD APPLAUSE)
Ventura: When you have guys who lived through a 99 loss season, they are going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. The guys who are new there is a lot of competition to make the team. That is the exciting part.
Fan question: If Dunn comes out of the box slow. Is it possible to drop him down in the line up to 6th or 7th?
Ventura: I have a little more to play with than last year. Anything is on the table and nothing is set in stone.
Fan question: Robin, I got to see Matt Davidson play in South Bend. First time I saw him I thought this kid is going to be in the Big's pretty quickly. As a former outstanding third baseman, how do you assess his progress?
Ventura: Well the reports we've gotten is that he is a quality major league player. The first time I got to see him was last week in Arizona. He's one of those players when you walk up to him you are surprised on how big he is. If anything he is probably close to somebody looking like Joe Crede. Just in size and moving around. That's a good comparison and for me that is exciting.
Questions were...interesting. Would love to hear everyone's thoughts in the comments below.